Ford has been getting into trouble over “track-ready” Mustangs after a few customers formally accused the company of erroneous marketing in 2017. A class-action lawsuit was even filed in March of that year, stating that the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 suffered from overheating problems that precluded it from being fully functional on a racetrack — specifically early examples of the car equipped with either the Technology Package or left in the base configuration.
Earlier this month, Federal Judge Federico A. Moreno certified statutory and common law fraud classes pertaining to the model in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Washington State. Additional approvals relating specifically to statutory fraud and/or implied warranty claims were made for Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas.
Despite the GT350’s flat-plane, 5.2-liter V8 engine (526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque) going down smooth as a dreamy performance engine, early examples of the car are alleged to have leaked fluids when exposed to the rigors of track use — even for a short time. While exclusive to lower-trimmed models, customers remained annoyed that a vehicle Ford described as “track-ready” was undergoing hardships that effectively limited its abilities to a point that it wouldn’t be competitive. Overheating Mustang GT350s would default to an engine management program colloquially known as “Limp Mode” that cut power to keep engine temperatures down.
Ford remedied the problem in 2017 by making the Track Package obligatory. All subsequent models came with the oil, transmission, and differential coolers angry customers claimed should probably have been on the car to begin with. Plaintiffs are claiming that the manufacturer originally removed these items from base-trimmed vehicles as a way to increase profits and never should have stated that they were track-ready automobiles, especially since a number of the involved parties stated they purchased the vehicles exclusively for track use.
“In reality, Plaintiffs say, the Base and Technology package versions of the cars were intentionally designed without coolers in order to inflate Ford’s profits margins,” reads the lawsuit. “As a result, the Base and Tech cars could not complete a full ‘Track Day’ without going into ‘Limp Mode.’”
The Ford Mustang GT350 has since been discontinued to give more leeway for the 760-hp Shelby GT500 and returning Mach 1 Mustang, the latter of which borrows many of the GT350’s components while taking a slightly more relaxed attitude. But its being gone does not mean it has been forgotten. Judge Moreno’s decision opens the door for the class-action experts at Hagens Berman to start making moves in numerous states.
“We are pleased the court has allowed our claims to continue and look forward to leading this case forward with something these affected Mustangs surely lack — speed and endurance,” managing partner of law firm Hagens Berman, Steve Berman, said in a statement. “The class of individuals who purchased these pricey pieces of history deserve to have more than a flashy trophy in their garage. They deserve to have a car that is capable of the track performance they were baited with.”
The international law firm also retweeted a story from The Drive this week, quoting Moreno as cautiously criticizing Ford’s marketing relating to the Mustang.
“Through product placement in James Bond movies and racing partnerships with figures like Carroll Shelby, Ford has spent half a century cultivating an aura of performance and adventure,” the judge wrote in his order. “But these Plaintiffs allege, to Lee Iacocca’s chagrin, that their cars are more like Pintos than Mustangs.”
The Mustang’s track-related issues seem quite a bit less dire than the Pinto fires. But it’s another item in what’s been a prolonged rough patch for Ford’s quality control. While automakers around the globe are perpetually subject to regulatory action and lawsuits relating to false promises, cost-cutting, and general defects, Ford has been getting some high-profile attention of late. While not all of that attention pertains to the Mustang, GT models equipped with the MT82 six-speed manual transmissions supplied by Getrag were hit with a lawsuit of their own. Ford has had a lot of issues with Getrag-sourced gearboxes, with the MT82 starting to get serious attention in 2020.
“The transmission is defective in its design, manufacturing, and or materials in that, among other problems, the transmission slips, jerks, clashes gears, and harshly engages; has premature internal wear, increased shift efforts, inability to drive, and eventually suffers a catastrophic failure,” states the lawsuit. “Ford repeatedly failed to disclose and actively concealed the defect from class members and the public and continues to market the class vehicles without disclosing the transmission defect.”
Problems are suspected to go back to 2010 and incorporates a 2011 investigation conducted by the NHTSA, though it failed to conclude the MT82 posed any “unreasonable” safety risks. The suit was originally filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California but has since been moved to the Eastern District of Michigan. Earlier this year, Ford also settled a class-action lawsuit pertaining to those pesky PowerShift DSP6 dual-clutches sold by Getrag and installed in Fiesta and Focus models between 2011 and 2016.
[Images: Ford Motor Co.]